My first big objective of the year was today - The Black Locust Duathlon down in Springfield, Missouri. Before the event everything looked to be going my way for a good finish. The weather forecast called for rain, snow, ice and temps in the 30's. The course was very muddy, flooded in spots and was littered with slimy wet roots and rocks. Just my type of course :-) To top it all off my legs felt great with Betsy from Back and Body Works doing her magic earlier in the week.
Carolynn and I left KC a little after 5:00 am heading down to Springfield. We got up extra early because of the forecasted 6 inches of snow. Needless to say, it was dry as a bone when we left KC and we arrived at the SAC River trail head about 2 1/2 hours early. Conditions were looking bleak as the trail head parking was flooded and freezing rain was coming down. The event promoters weren't there yet which kind of worried me and got me off my race game plan. For awhile I actually thought the event was going to be cancelled, which would have really disappointed me.
I decided to go ahead and get ready early and put in an hour warm-up. A lot of times I feel flat the first 30 to 45 minutes of a race because I don't warm up well. I always think I should "save it for the race". But my current form is good and I have a lot of base miles in my legs. I reconed the running loop and followed some of the trail and got adjusted to the wet slimey conditions. I pushed it in a few sections and was very happy that along with my good legs I had some good balance and was relaxed on my chosen ride for the day - Mary SS Rigid.
By race time I was ready to go. John gave his pre-race instructions and we were off for the first challenge. 4 miles of soggy trails, roots, creek (well actually mini rivers due to the flooding) crossing and plenty of rocky climbs and slick downhills. I got off to a great start, but was quickly passed by about 20 or so skinny runners once we got off the soft gravel road and on a short 1/2 mile flat section. Then it was all good stuff after that. Good for me at least. I can usually just barely keep up with the fast runners when things get technical, but today luck was on my side. The trails were really soggy and it was raining really hard. The going was very hard and you needed a lot of strength and power not speed. At about the 2 mile mark of the run I caught up with a pack of 5 guys who had distanced themselves from me on the short road section. I quickly got by them and picked my next target. I picked off another 11 runners during the next mile which included a rather nasty creek crossing. The water was very cold and nearly waist deep. I opted to take this log crossing at this point which some were avoiding due to it being very slick. The final mile was smooth sailing for me and I came off the run in the top 5 only about 2 minutes off the lead. A lot better than last years 6 min deficit.
After a quick transition, I set off after the leader. Carolynn yelled that he was two minutes up and I put in a hard charge the first mile. I passed the first couple of guys I caught after only about 1/2 mile. I set off after the leader and put in a hell of an effort. The trails were very slick and muddy. Most were filled completely with water. And this water was spraying in my eyes and I could barely see, but I really wanted to catch the leader. The creek crossings were ragging and all the basins were flooded. Parts of the trail that were usually just dry rock were now fast flowing water.
I rode my heart out for about 7 miles, then started to get really depressed and tired. I was flying and attacking the technical sections. I cleared sections and actually impressed myself due to the trail conditions. Still the leaders were not in site. To top it all off, I kept getting thorns in my tires. Luckily I run tubeless and they all sealed up. Beside a face full of white stuff I was happy I had plenty of STANS. But still frustrated that someone was riding faster than I in these conditions. None the less, I kept the pace high and tried to relax and stay confident. As I got closer to the transition area, I ran into Carolynn at one of the many creek crossing. She cheered me on and said I had a huge lead. WTF! Here I am, putting myself in a world of hurt chasing a ghost rider. All along I was in the lead :-)
Ended up winning the overall title. I am glad to put 1st Place Overall Male - Black Locust Off-Road Duathlon on my palmarès.
Hats off to John, Jason, the Ozark MultiSport Club and all the volunteers. They put on a great event under very tough conditions. His sponsors provided a lot of great prizes and I think everyone came home with something.